The staff size at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge and Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, could be reduced as a new federal contractor takes over. Officials expect the staff reductions to be less than 5 percent, and they say that most, if not all, of the staff reductions could come through voluntary separation programs.
The voluntary separation programs, or VSPs, were announced on April 15 by B&W Y-12 President and General Manager Dave Richardson and B&W Pantex President and General Manager John Woolery.
In his message to Y-12 workers, Richardson said the National Nuclear Security Administration had directed the plants to conduct the VSPs as part of the implementation of the staffing plan for Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC, the new contractor at the two nuclear weapons plants in Tennessee and Texas.
The Y-12 VSP will be targeted to specific job classifications and roles identified by CNS, Richardson said. Only employees in those specific classifications and roles will be eligible to apply for the VSP.
“Currently, B&W Y-12 is in the process of putting together a VSP plan that is in alignment with CNS’ staffing desires,” Richardson said last week. “We will submit our VSP plan later this week. Once this plan is approved by NNSA, we’ll communicate more details to you; specifically, each person eligible to participate in the VSP will be notified.”
Richardson said B&W Y-12 plans to implement the VSP plan as quickly as possible in order to help support the orderly four-month transition to CNS. The new contractor is expected to take over in July.
“In order to do this, we’ll provide a clear explanation of how the program works, let employees know who is eligible and how they can apply, allow time for people to make their decisions, and finally, announce the results of the VSP program in the upcoming weeks,” Richardson said.
B&W Y-12 has about 4,300 employees, while B&W Pantex has about 3,100.
In a message on the company’s transition website, CNS Chief Executive Officer Jim Haynes said there were employee meetings at Y-12 a week ago on Tuesday and Wednesday to share information about CNS and the transition to the new contract. Similar meetings were planned with Pantex employees in Amarillo on Tuesday of this week.
CNS was first awarded the contract competition to manage Pantex and Y-12 in January 2013, and that decision has survived a series of protests. CNS is led by Bechtel National Inc., and the team has promised to save the federal government more than $3 billion during the next decade.
Haynes said many of the CNS plans for cost savings will come from efficiencies and process improvements that do not directly affect employees.
“However, some of the cost savings will necessarily come from adjusting the size of the workforce and controlling the cost of benefit plans,” he said.
Haynes said budgets for Pantex and Y-12 have been and will continue to be tight.
“Costs are going up, and facilities are deteriorating,” Haynes said. “In order to create a sustainable future, we must decrease costs and plow the savings back into facility improvements and investment in the workplace. To that end, 70 percent of any savings CNS achieves will go back to the government for reinvestment in the sites. The other 30 percent is available to CNS for earned fee, but only if we achieve certain production and cost reduction goals. We plan to share a portion of that fee with employees in the form of rewards, incentives, community support, and employee activities.”
CNS expected to submit a proposed benefit plan to the NNSA on April 17, and approval is anticipated in early May.
Some leadership positions (managers and supervisors) will be eliminated, given the consolidation of the management structure, Haynes said. Employees in those positions will have the opportunity to compete for other positions in the organization.
Employees who are not in leadership positions and who do not accept the voluntary separation will be offered employment. Offers of employment will be mailed no later than June 2, Haynes said.
Besides Bechtel National, the CNS team also includes Lockheed Martin Services Inc., ATK Launch Systems Inc., and SOC LLC, with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., as a teaming subcontractor.
The Pantex Plant and Y‐12 National Security Complex are both part of the U.S. Nuclear Security Enterprise, charged with maintaining the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. Pantex is responsible for nuclear weapons life extension programs; weapons dismantlement; development, testing, and fabrication of high explosive components; and storage and surveillance of plutonium pits. Y‐12 is responsible for safe and secure uranium storage, processing, and manufacturing operations.
The CNS team will assume responsibility for managing and operating these government facilities from B&W Y‐12 and B&W Pantex, both companies owned by Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Bechtel National Inc.
The B&W-led companies have held the Y-12 contract since 2000 and the Pantex contract since 2001.
The new five-year extendable contract between CNS and the NNSA could be worth up to $22.8 billion during a 10-year period. Besides the management and operation of Y-12 and Pantex, it could also include construction of the multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 and the potential to manage and operate the NNSA’s Savannah River Tritium Operations near Aiken, S.C.